sexta-feira, 13 de janeiro de 2012

The Errors of Ron Paul

(Written in English in the hope that foreigners might come and read)

Ron Paul, my favorite presidential candidate ever (including Brazilian elections), is making a good show on the caucuses so far. I doubt he'll get the nomination, but I'm confident he'll get enough votes to make everyone take libertarianism (understood here merely as defending a radically smaller State) seriously.

I would be lying, though, if I said I completely agree with all he says. In this article I set out what I consider to be wrong with Ron Paul. It comes down to three items.

1) Immigration: this topic has become so polarized in the US that the only opinion a Republican will get away with is a draconian plan to expatriate every single individual who entered the country illegally, even if they are settled, employed and have ties to the community for decades. Paul defends this too; but isn't that a bit too much? I won't go to the extremes of  someCatholic bishops who propose open borders or universal amnesty; this can't be done in a rich Welfare State, as it would quickly drain the system (a lot of new entrants who consume services but do not contribute taxes) and reduce everyone to poverty. Paul is right to oppose free immigration (in a free market society open borders do not pose a problem). The borders must be controlled and illegals sent back, provided they just came in, have no job, committed a crime or something on those lines. On the other hand, if a person is working and settled, if he or she has lived in the country for decades and has family and friends there, it is inhuman to expatriate them; the system must have this flexibility. Gingrich proposed this in a debate, but took so much heat that he dropped the subject. Sanity should never allow itself to be silenced like this.

2) "End the Fed". Sure, I agree, the Fed must end, provided that in its place we get a stable gold standard or completely free-market currencies. The problem is that many leftists, including politicians, love Paul's message about how the Fed is an evil conspiracy of bankers to control the economy, and agree that it should be abolished. In its place they would go back to direct government control of currency, which is much, much worse. Sure, the Fed should be transparent (which, by the way, would increase economic stability) and pursue a more conservative policy so as to avoid or at least decrease boom and bust cycles like the ones we are living through. If we can move beyond monetary policy altogether (that is, taking money out of the government's hands: either gold standard or free-market currencies), great. But if not, it is better to stay with an independent Central Bank than to give politicians direct control over monetary policy. Paul proposes the right thing; but many who endorse him have different plans in mind; and the rhetoric he uses in his public appearances (which casts the bankers in the Fed as evil conspirators) lends itself very easily to this wrong leftist anti-business and pro-government agenda.

3) His justification for bringing the troops home. Again, I agree with his policy here: much less military activity outside the US. The war in Iraq was a huge mistake; attacking Iran will be even worse. Cut back on military spending (by the way, wars are the single most effective means to government growth and fiscal deficit), let those barbarians bomb each other as much as they want; invest more on a defensive program with direct and brutal retaliation (or preemptive action if needed) in case anyone attempts an attack. Cease financial support of Israel (or at least decrease it) and Israel's enemies. I'm for the whole package, as it would hugely benefit and enrich the US, allowing it to better defend itself; militarized States always lose in the end as more and more of their production goes to this unproductive end.

My problem is again with Paul's rhetoric, which comes dangerously close to blaming the US for terrorism and Muslim antagonism. I'm sure he doesn't mean it, but it sounds almost as if he justifies America's enemies based on supposed American atrocities. Sure, the fact that kids lost brothers and fathers who were bombed or gunned by the American army probably makes them hate America, and is a good pretext for radical Muslim groups to exploit. But it can never justify their atrocious acts and it is not the root cause of their poisonous anti-Western ideology. The terrorists are evil; the responsibility for their crimes is only theirs; and these crimes are perfectly accounted for by their beliefs and (anti)values. The American military helps them indirectly by providing an easy excuse (which it should stop providing at once), but it's not the cause of their actions.

On the same note, the reason why the USA shouldn't invade Iran is not because its government is good and can be trusted; it is not and cannot. It's just that no good can come to Americans from pursuing this aggressive policy, as no good came from invading Iraq (help in dismantling Al Qaeda? Well, as Bin Laden's death showed, that can be achieved in discreeter ways), only more trouble, more Islamists, more factions, more deaths and a whole lot of monetary cost sending the government in a fiscal deficit it has never recovered from (Obama inherited it from Bush Jr. and made it even worse). Leave them as they are. These failed States are incompetent and stupid enough never to be a serious threat to American society; get out of their and the terrorists' sight and they'll quietly revert to bombing each other as they have done (and still do - most of Al Qaeda's attacks are against Muslims) for ages.

If Ron Paul could get his wording and rhetoric in shape, he would avoid giving easy shots for his opponents, especially on foreign policy.